I remember the first time I saw Casino Royale. Seeing Daniel Craig for the first time with his short cut hair, his lean muscular body and his ape-like jumping motions were odd to me. In some manner, I perceived it as an outrageous blasphemy to Bond films. I grew up seeing James Bond as a man who was smooth and relaxed. He always had an escape plan, and he appears to be a step ahead of his megalomaniac counterparts.
I was constantly being badgered by friends of mine saying that this was an exceptional Bond film, so I went home and gave it another chance. Gradually, I noticed that this Bond film really grew into me. I started to appreciate the rebirth and transformation of this template character. The opening scene done by Martin Campbell was somehow borrowed from the 40’s gangster films with its canted shots and grainy black and white feel. It was a detour from the formula it normally operates in which was Bond goes to bad guy’s lair, Bond’s cover gets blown, Bond shoots a lot of people and blows a ton of stuff into bits and he escapes by the skin of his teeth (normally he inserts a pun during the getaway).
When Bond gets back into the office, he talks to M after sending him to another mission to investigate and shoot people. (I often wonder how he made his after-action report).
Here we see Bond as a rookie, being recently promoted to his “00” status, M perceives him as a reckless liability to the service. He’s tasked to track down a group of terrorists trying get funding from a poker game. I don’t play poker, nor do I understand the little nuances that make a good poker game, but I do understand that if Bond loses, terrorists and genocidal African people are gonna be richer because of Bond’s mishap with his bluffs. Judi Dench has been granted more dialogue and teeth unlike in the previous films where she was just paid to worry and bark orders at other MI6 agents. Bond gets to have his fair share of women in this movie, one is a replica of Penelope Cruz and the other is Vesper Lynd, a sarcastic accountant from the Royal Treasury keeping an eye on Bond’s cash played by Eva Green.
The Bond franchise does drive around with this common argument with superhero movies: you’ve got to have a good villain, a guy that didn’t come from a box you ordered from 1-800 HENCHMEN, a guy as good as the articulate and unbelievably mad Mr. Silver in Skyfall, who reminds me a lot of Christoph Waltz’s “The Jew Hunter” from The Inglorious Basterds. Here it was an OK villain; he goes by the name of Le Chiffre, sufficient in playing his role in the grand scheme of things, no world domination and rule-the-entire-planet-Earth type of deal.
Casino Royale showed us that Bond is a man. He bleeds, he makes mistakes he expresses genuine love I have never seen in an espionage thriller and suffers the consequences. There’s a scene that involves Bond saying how much he loves Vesper, and of all the Bonds, he’s the only actor who could pull this delicate and sincere line without making anyone grin or laugh in the movie house.
After much thought and reflection, I’ve come to a conclusion that Casino Royale has to be one of the best Bonds ever made. And as for Daniel Craig, he’s does the Bond franchise an irrefutable tribute. But I just have to say, Sean Connery does puns and one liners really, really well.
The actions scenes here are superb, far from the evidently rehearsed explosions and fist fights demonstrated by the ones before it. Daniel Craig and Martin Campbell have done an awesome execution of unpredictable fight scenes like the one involving Bond throwing a pistol at the face of the bomb maker he was after. Not only that, he unexpectedly smashes through walls and smacks a guy’s forehead on a bronze bust. I believe that this movie would appeal to people who were tired of the Bond formula that has been going on for years. On the other hand this would be hated by people who do not really care about Bond’s humanity, I used to be one of those and I deeply regret it.
One last thing, I realized that the accounting and applied sciences department of MI6 must’ve been pissed with Bond losing and damaging so many of Her Majesty’s property.